Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Be Productive without Sacrificing your Happiness

Have you ever finished a project and realized that the process that you went through to get it done was hurting your health: it simply wasn't worth it. Maybe you procrastinated and  pushed yourself to do it in the last minute. And not only that, you also wanted good results, so you killed yourself in a short amount of time. Whether you are preparing for an exam, getting a work project done, planning a trip or starting up a new health habit (eating healthier, working out), last minute execution is damaging and never worth it. I have been there, suffered the consequences, and realized that the feeling of exhaustion and "burnout" from poor time management and a lack of self-care is destructive to my precious energy and damaging to the future- to recover from a few days of cramming or a week schedule that left out the things needed to maintain health can sometimes take quite a while. Tired of unproductive habits? I will show you the top and proven tips of optimal productivity that actually work:

1 Focus on Productivity not Perfection

Nobody expects you to be perfect, it is only an unrealistic expectation of yourself. Being perfect puts unnecessary pressure, robs your precious energy and is simply not something to be proud of. Expecting perfection and procrastination come hand in hand: your expectations of your project or goal are so high that you put off taking action because you are afraid of letting yourself down. So stop the self-criticism and focus on being productive. Use the strategies here and I will promise you one thing: these productivity strategies not only guarantee success, but don't take away from your health and happiness. 

2 Plan, plan, plan...ahead!

Got a massive project to get done? Divide it into small parts and schedule each component into your planner during the times that you know you will be able and ready to focus. Doing things all at once is the prerequisite for "burnout" and the process may be less rewarding. By planning a project in advance and giving yourself multiple time periods to master it, you are being smart. Each day, you will be able to approach the project with a different angle and you will have the time to re-evaluate: what is working, what is not, what needs improvement. This strategy doesn't just apply to a work project. If you want to get into the habit of being active, for example, trying really hard and killing yourself at the gym once in a while is damaging and doesn't produce any lasting results.

3 Don't Neglect Self-Care

In the midst of getting a work project done, it may be the last thing on our mind to take care of our bodies. But this time, in fact, is when we are in the most need of self-care. "I don't have time to eat or hit the gym", is a popular response. But actually, the time invested into your health, even during a busy time, is going to increase productivity, improve focus and make you feel better overall. It is not necessary to invest a huge amount of time on yourself, but a little effort in this department goes a long way! So during the time when you have the most things on your plate for work, maintain these vital habits:

  • SLEEP: aim for at least 7 hours per night. Sleeping enough works wonders for optimal focus, energy and memory retention. Your body gets a chance to recover and prepare for the day ahead.
  • EAT REGULARLY: eat a balanced diet with nutrient-rich foods. This means eating meals that include all food groups. There is no need for perfection here, but making a consistent effort to prepare meals and be mindful about the foods that are going into your body is important.
  • EXERCISE REGULARLY: physical activity is proven to be one of the top stress busters and a powerful tool to be optimally energized, vibrant and at your best self. So get active now! Incorporate this habit regularly into your lifestyle. Create an exercise goal, no matter how small, and stick to it on a consistent basis.
4 Don't Be a Hermit! 

I'm serious, there is no need to sacrifice your social life during a busy work period of a day or couple of days. Even if it means that you have to adjust your plans and opt for a quick coffee break with a friend, it is worth it. Taking a break from yourself and your priorities is a great way to let go, gain some perspective and simply let loose!

4 The Last Resort

If you find yourself running out of time before a project is due, it may be helpful to re-assess your expectations. Remember, it isn't worth it to sacrifice your happiness and well-being. Ask yourself this question: If I just focus on getting this done, maybe not to the best of my ability, but without putting too much pressure on myself, what is the worst that can happen? Will the exact result of what I get done today really matter a year from now? Usually we assume more consequence than what actually ends up happening. If you spend a little less energy and time doing what you have to do, usually it still all works out fine in the end. 

5 Reward and Reassess

 When you finish a project or accomplish a goal, congratulate yourself for your achievement! Go out, watch a movie, take a bath, buy something nice for yourself and do whatever it is that makes you feel good. The main point is that you got it done, there is no need to probe into what worked and what didn't for the purpose of being self-critical. There is also opportunity to learn for the future. So at the same time, notice what you could work on for next time and keep that in mind for the future. 

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